Local Rhythms – TV is King

Picture 1When MTV hit the airwaves, I was addicted.  Music, I believed, should be seen and heard.

These days, MTV wallows in tawdry reality television, and urges anyone with an interest in the “M” part of the network’s name to visit a web site.

I’ve tried to watch music videos online, and there are too many Max Headroom moments for my patience. Plus, there’s the short attention span factor.  Combining the Internet with a bunch of five-minute vignettes is a recipe for distraction.

Then I discovered Palladia, CMT HD and the HDNet Sunday concert series, presenting long-form music that can be seen, heard and experienced in high definition.

Once again, I’m blissfully chained to my TV.

Let me offer some advice to those of you who find this unhealthy. Watch your favorite band in seven-channel high definition and then talk to me.  Put it another way – if you enjoy live music, you’ll enjoy high fidelity, high definition television even more.

It’s like having a concert hall in your living room.

I knew Sara Bareilles only in passing, until I caught her “Live at the Fillmore” set on Palladia the other night.  She mesmerized me with every song. Best of all, her performance looked and sounded as good, if not better, than actually being there.

In another time, I’d have been intrigued enough by Bareilles’ bouncy hit “Love Song” to check her out live.  But let’s face it, while clubbing is still a realistic pursuit, concerts cost too much to attend every one that looks interesting.

Palladia features programming from MTV, VH1 and CMT artists, so on any given day you can catch a Jay-Z “Storytellers,” Def Leppard and Taylor Swift doing “Crossroads,” or new and interesting acts like Silversun Pickups and Adele on “Unplugged.”  If you’re lucky, they’ll show Jeff Beck’s “Live at Ronnie Scott’s” again, which is amazing.

CMT looks great in high definition.  Not on stuff like Toby Keith’s “Beer For My Horses” movie, which in 1080p is probably bad for the environment, but for full length musical performances by Reba McIntire, Alan Jackson and others.

Every Sunday, HDNet dedicates its programming to a wide array of concerts, from Gwen Stefani to New Found Glory, Meat Loaf to Jet, Styx performing with an orchestra, or Heart re-creating “Dreamboat Annie” (something they’re charging 150 bucks to do next week in Manchester).

I think of shows like these as another form of local music.  I don’t have to leave town, or for that matter my house, to see them.

Here are some live local performances worth heading out for:

Thursday: Jesse Carr Trio, Burdick’s – A regular occurrence every first Thursday at this Walpole restaurant and chocolate shrine, Jesse Carr sings and plays saxophone, with Genevieve Rose on upright bass, and Joe LaCreta on guitar.  Order a bite from the French bistro menu and end with a mouse (not mousse – this one has a tail) made of the darkest, most decadent chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

Friday: Spinning Leaves, Pleasant Valley Brewing – This is worth the drive to Saxtons River.  Spinning Leaves are a duo hailing from Pennsylvania.  They sound like a more carefree version of the Swell Season, the Oscar-winning stars of “Once.”  This charming little roadhouse, located in the middle of downtown, has great beers, a top-notch menu and music every weekend.

Saturday: Jason LeVasseur, Colby-Sawyer College – This Nashville-based rocker reminds me a bit of Matt Nathanson. He’s won all kinds of awards on the college circuit, with fun songs like “Driver is the Deejay,” where he reminds his passengers that “I get to pick what goes in the stereo.” LeVasseur’s band, Life in General, was a semi-finalist in last year’s “America’s Got Talent” series.

Sunday: Tall Granite Jazz Band, Sunapee Harbor – Is it Labor Day already?  There’s little doubt when Sunapee hosts the final outdoor concert of the season.  Closing out summer (sigh) is a band that keeps things swinging, with selections by Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and other performers from the Big Band era.  Maybe Steven Tyler, who’s recuperating at his lake house, will stop by for a song or two.

Tuesday: Irish Sessions, Salt hill Pub – An Upper Valley treasure that’s gone in 5 years from treat to institution to (dare I say it?) franchise, coming soon to Hanover (with music, of course).  About tonight: if you haven’t stopped in after work (or looking for work – times are hard) to check out this circle of scintillating Celtic sounds, you’re really missing out.

Wednesday: Reid Trevaskis, Café Andre – Most nights food draws customers to this roadside restaurant, tucked a mile or so from the Sunapee traffic circle.  Traviskis was a big deal in New York a few years back, and is known these days for his band Hurricane Alley, specializing in “Abba to ZZ Top.”  Tonight, he’s solo, but no less entertaining.

Comcast Must Hate Music

Cable monopolist Comcast just announced a change to the local (New Hampshire/Vermont)  HD programming lineup, effective June 26.

HDNet, the Mark Cuban-created source for Arrested Development reruns and great live music shows like the V Festival, True Music and concert specials like the Chicago/Earth, Wind & Fire set a few months back, is out.  In its place is the stodgy A&E HD network.

Additionally, HDNet Movies was kicked to the curb, to be replaced by National Geographic Magazine’s high definition offering.  I guess one Discovery Channel, not to mention similar programing on PBS, wasn’t enough.

I’m pretty sure Comcast hates music; every day it seems another outlet disappears and a lifestyle station takes its place.   Oh, there’s lots of Ashley Tisdale and Kanye West videos (and “cribs” tours, no doubt) available on demand, but for anyone with an attention span longer than 8 or 9 minutes, there’s not much left.

It’s bad enough that Comcast’s web site, and their latest hype offering TVplanner, can’t keep track of their own stations when it comes to music.  Go there and filter on HD and you’ll find channel 771 is the home of MTV-HD, featuring vintage VH1 Storytellers episodes form the likes of Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen as well as 3-hour blocks of HD videos.

One problem – it’s not on 771, nor can it be found on any other Comcast channel.

I do hope FairPoint’s acquisition of Verizon is approved.  Local television service could use a shot in the arm.